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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Parents Should Know

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“These are the conversations that parents try to avoid,” said Denise Crumble, health project coordinator for the Milwaukee Plain Talk Initiative. “But parents shouldn’t assume that schools are having this conversation [about sex education]. You still want to bring it up.”

Crumble’s Plain Talk project is targeting parents in the Midtown area who want to able to honestly and accurately discuss sexual health and relationships with their kids. Crumble said teens want to know that their parents are concerned about what they’re doing, especially if they’re engaged in risky behavior such as underage drinking, taking drugs, smoking or having sex.

Crumble offered some advice for parents who want to talk to their kids about puberty, health and sexual activity:

Just do it. Crumble said the most common question parents ask is, “How do I start the conversation?” Crumble’s response is blunt: “You just start it.” She said that parents can talk about relationships or examples in the media to talk about how a teen make smart choices.

If you talk about sex, it doesn’t mean that you support your kid being sexually active.
On the contrary, Crumble said, citing numerous studies that found that teens have a comprehensive sex education are more likely to delay their sexual activity.

Start talking early. Crumble said age-appropriate conversations about health, anatomy and puberty can start as young as ages 7, 8 or 9. “You can answer their questions in a simple way so that they can understand what’s happening with their bodies,” Crumble said.

You can stop the cycle now. Crumble said many of the people involved in the Plain Talk Initiative were teen parents who didn’t have honest discussions with their own parents. “This is where the cycle begins, but you can stop it,” she said. “They don’t have accept teen pregnancy as a reality in their family.”

You aren’t alone. Programs such as Plain Talk and its partner organizations, including the New Concept Self Development Center, have lots of resources for parents who need help with sex education, parenting skills and other social services.
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